NEW YORK – On April 19, 1989 at approximately 9:00P.M. investment banker Trisha Meilli, who was 28 at the time – was viciously robbed and raped in Central Park, where she went jogging. I remember this case like it was yesterday – it was one of the most notorious rape cases in recent memory.
5 Black and Latino teenage boys, who were around my age at the time, were rounded up, interrogated and confessed to the crime. There were some questionable police tactics that were used to obtain that confession, nevertheless. The suspects were interrogated for hours, even with their parents present. One has to consider, if a child is sitting in a police station, being interrogated for hours, tired, hungry, one may think confessing will finally get them to be able to go home. Unfortunately, that was not the case, 4 out of the 5 confessed and was charged. The police videotaped the confessions, but not the entire length on how long these young men were interrogated – more deceptive tactics by the NYPD.
The media played a huge role in intensifying the tensions in the city, and it became clear, they were demanding a public lynching of these young men. The media ring leader in all of this was the NY Post, and that shouldn’t be as a surprise to anyone. Donald Trump even got involved, by paying for advertisement concerning this case, calling the five young men, animals. At least, we are aware Trump has always been a racist and is sticking to his tactics in the present, especially concerning the subject of the President, but I’ll digress. The media also ensure the names and addresses of the suspects were released. These young men were already convicted, before so called evidence was released to the pubic.
There was no DNA evidence linking any of these young men to the crime. The jury still convicted them anyway, based on the videotaped confessions alone. I’m sure the race of these young men, played an immense role in their convictions, as well.
The real rapist was Matias Reyes, who confessed to the crime – 12 years later – in 2001. Reyes DNA would match those left on the victim and the 5 young men, who are now adults were released a year later.
Barry Scheck, the director of the Innocence Project, assisted in the exoneration.
“It was standard operating procedure back then for police to get a confession, then begin a videotape,” Scheck said. Now, he continued, we know better: “Every interrogation should be videotaped.”
If this had been mandated [in 1989] they wouldn’t have been able to coerce those confessions from those juveniles,” said Scheck. “There is almost nothing more powerful that can go in front of the jury than a confession… hopefully jurors are becoming more knowledgeable that false confessions are something that happen.”
Every police officers worst case scenario is a citizen that knows their rights. It is essential to educate your children on what to do, when they find themselves in contact with the police.
This case caused so much racial divide in the city, but that was an everyday occurrence, and still continues to this day. The distrusting relationship between the NYPD and the Black and Latino community, has never gotten better since, in fact, it has got worse. In looking back, concerning this case – I don’t blame minority youths for not trusting the police.
These five young men didn’t get a chance to go off to college, and have the opportunity to obtain a career, thereafter. That was taken from them by these overzealous cops who wanted to appease the public’s outcry for a lynching; because they felt these juveniles must have committed this heinous crime and wanted to hurry up and arrest them, primary because the victim was a white woman.
NYC Mayor Bloomberg refuses to settle the law suit, concerning the Central Park 5. The city is fighting for footage of the documentary that Ken Burns completed based on this case. Bloomberg does not know the definition of doing the right thing, since part of his legacy would be the enhancement of the stop-and-frisk technique, against minority men who look like the Central Park Five. Why would this arrogant Mayor admit his police department during that time were incompetent and dishonest, as a matter of fact, a few of them are still incompetent and dishonest. Why would he attempt to settle a law suit, so that maybe these young men can go on with their lives? I guess that’s what we get when we don’t vote at all, right?
The Central Park Five were raised in the criminal justice system, that is all that they know. Many of them have been in and out of prison since their release, but one must understand, interacting with other people who have committed crimes for the duration of their early adult life, is part of their socialization.
I do believe in karma, whatever one puts in the universe is exactly what they get back out. Mike Sheenan the lead detective in this case, retired and became a Fox 5 news crime reporter. Sheehan was involved in a DUI, hitting a NYPD horse, in the process. Sheehan refused a breathalyzer test, was charged and subsequently fired from Fox 5. When these men were exonerated, Sheenhan was emphatically trying to say that they did not coerce them into a confession.
“All this stuff about coercion really pisses me off,” Sheehan says. “Do you honestly think that we — detectives with more than twenty years in, family men with pensions — would risk all of that so we could put words in the mouth of a 15-year-old kid? Absolutely not.”
Therefore, it gives me satisfaction that he was arrested and fired, even though he only received 5 days of community service. I would feel a lot better if these young men who are now in their 30’s, receive their justice, in a form of monetary payment. One thing that I know for sure, is that if one does not have money to obtain a reputable lawyer, one will be sucked into this bias criminal judicial system, and will have a hard time getting out of it, if truly innocent. The entire criminal justice system failed these young men, and now they are still facing, what we call invisible punishment.
A documentary called Central Park Five by director Sara Burns, will be released on November 19, 2012 at the Schomburg and opening November 23, at theaters in NYC. It will document this case in great detail. I encourage people to check this out and take any young minority men in their family along. The Central Park jogging case, and how these young men were treated will never be erased from my memory. I can only hope that when human justice on this earth fails, you best believe God prevails.
Check out the trailer below:
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